Preferential Voting – Single Member (AV)

Brisbane City Council Election Guide Launched

The federal by-election in the south-east Melbourne seat of Dunkley is set to be the big electoral event of February 2024. You can find my by-election guide here.

After that, the biggest election in the first half of 2024 will be the Brisbane City Council election on 16 March, one of the 77 local government elections held across Queensland that day. I’ve just published my ABC election guide for the election here.

The results of the Brisbane Lord Mayoral and City Council elections will attract more national attention than usual. With a Queensland state election set for 26 October, and a federal election due by May 2025, the Brisbane results will be dissected for their state and federal implications. Will the Greens’ breakthrough to win three Brisbane seats at the 2022 Federal election be repeated at the council election, and could this be a portent for the state election?Read More »Brisbane City Council Election Guide Launched

Why NSW Labor’s Election Night Majority Disappeared

On the night of the 2023 NSW election, I along with most other observers had expected that Labor would achieve majority government.

After midnight I turned off the ABC’s predictive tools and assessed every seat solely on the votes counted. The tally I came to had Labor on a certain 45 seats, ahead in another four seats, and based on past trends had a reasonable chance of winning three seats where the Coalition was ahead on votes.

The next morning I rang the Sydney news room suggesting that news reports refer to Labor winning but step back from stating Labor had achieved a majority. On the seats remaining in doubt, you would have expected Labor would win at least two of the doubtful seats to achieve majority government. That was the position I reported on ABC news on the Sunday night.

This did not happen. Labor won only the 45 seats I had marked down as definite Labor wins on my Sunday morning check. In the four seats where Labor was ahead, and every other seat that was close, Labor went backwards with each day’s counting.

On Monday 27 March, the uncounted pre-poll centres were added to the count. A trend against Labor emerged and on the Monday evening I tweeted that Labor would probably miss out on a majority and win 45 or 46 seats. In seat after seat the addition of pre-poll votes on Monday had revealed a consistent decline in Labor’s position.

That trend went even further on the Saturday after polling day when the largest batches of postal votes were added in key seats. For the first time the Liberal Party pulled ahead in Ryde and moved even further ahead in Terrigal. Both seats had looked like Labor gains on election night.

As an election analyst, such post election night shifts set you up for criticism. You are accused of not taking into account that pre-polls and postals would favour the Coalition.

Actually, the model I use builds in a correction for postal and pre-poll voting trends. The model factors in the postal and pre-poll vote trends from the last election.

What happened in 2023 is that the 2023 pre-poll and postal vote results turned out to be very different to the election day results. The trend to the Coalition in post-election counting was much larger than in 2019.

There were also many more pre-poll and postal votes in 2023. The early vote broke more strongly for the Coalition than previously, and the impact of these votes was amplified in the final result by their greater weight of numbers.
Read More »Why NSW Labor’s Election Night Majority Disappeared

How many NSW contests would have had different results under full preferential voting?

Unlike the Commonwealth and every other mainland state, NSW uses optional preferential voting (OPV) to elect its lower house of parliament. OPV was adopted by the Wran Labor government in 1980, the only state where a Labor government implemented what at the time was party policy. The Whitlam government tried and failed to implement OPV for Federal elections.

Labor’s embrace of OPV followed the Labor Party’s experience with losing seats to the Coalition on DLP preferences between 1955 and 1972. There was also a desire to make it harder for the Coalition to win seats where both parties nominated candidates.

The Wran government not only introduced OPV, it entrenched it in the state’s Constitution. OPV can now only be repealed by referendum. I doubt that a referendum to repeal OPV would pass.

Labor’s hope for advantage from OPV has failed to live up to expectations. The Coalition has largely abandoned three-cornered contests to avoid losing seats. The emergence and growth of the Greens as a left-wing competitor has cut into Labor’s first preference vote and left the party more reliant on preferences to win seats. Labor regularly comes from behind to win at Federal elections under full preferential voting, but come-from-behind wins are harder under OPV at NSW state elections.

At recent NSW elections it has been the Coalition advocating ‘Just Vote 1’ and the Labor Party encouraging voters to complete more preferences.

I explained more about the political impact of OPV in this post published before the NSW election.

Inside this post I’ll look at the results of the 2023 election and the seats where preferences determined the winner. Many seats had preference distributed, but only six seats saw preferences change the result by allowing a trailing candidate to win.

Using preference flows from last year’s Federal election where full preferences were required, I look at several state seats where there might have been a different result had full rather than optional preferential voting been used.

My conclusion is the Liberal Party probably won four three extra seats due to OPV, two at the expense of Independents (Pittwater, Willoughby), and two at the expense of Labor (Ryde, Terrigal). (A few people are arguing that Willoughby should not be included in this list. They have a reasonable argument. When the result is final it may just be a matter of the result narrowing substantially rather than changing.)
Read More »How many NSW contests would have had different results under full preferential voting?

Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election

I’ve prepared a preview publication on the NSW Legislative Assembly election for the NSW Parliamentary Library.

I won’t claim its an exciting publication. It’s a reference work that tabulates, for each electorate, results at the four elections from 2007 to 2019, plus references to the 2015 and 2021 redistributions.

The period covers four elections, beginning with a comfortable Labor victory in 2007, then tracking results through the landslide Coalition victory in 2011, then the 2015 and 2019 elections where Coalition support ebbed away.

Leaving the finely balanced Legislative Assembly that faces the electorate on 25 March.

You can find the publication at this link.

The analysis uses the four elections to categorise 2023 electorates as being safe for the Coalition or Labor, or the sort of electorates that change sides.

Unsurprisingly, the categories of electorates line up with the 2023 electoral pendulum.Read More »Background Paper on the 2023 NSW Election

The Political Impact of Optional Preferential Voting – NSW 2019 Preference Flows

As mentioned in my previous post, New South Wales is the only Australian jurisdiction that uses optional rather than compulsory or full preferential voting for single member lower house elections. It is also the only state that data enters all lower house ballot papers and publishes the data for outside research.

Optional preferential voting (OPV) means that voters do not have to number a preference for every candidate on the ballot paper. A ballot paper requires only a first preference to be formal. All further preferences are optional.

If during the distribution of preferences, a ballot paper for distribution has no preference for a candidate remaining in the count, the the ballot paper is put aside as having “exhausted” its preferences. Exhausted ballot papers have no direct involvement in determining the winning candidate, but they have an indirect role in altering the winning post a candidate must pass to win. As explained below, OPV works in favour of leading candidates over trailing candidates.

This can be explained by comparing the maths of full versus optional preferential voting.

  • Under full preferential voting, the winning candidate must achieve 50% of the formal vote after the distribution of preferences. The winning post of the votes needed to win is set at the start of the count and does not change.
  • Under optional preferential voting, the winning candidate must receive a majority of the votes remaining in the count, that is the formal vote minus exhausted preferences. The winning post is lowered with each exhausted preference making it easier for the leading candidate to win by making it harder for the second placed candidate to catch and pass the leader.

The chart below shows the two-party preferred preference flows for minor parties and Independents at the 2019 NSW election.

I'll explain the political implications of the above graph inside the post. But if you want more detail of the preferences flows by electorate by candidate, or by party by electorate, you can find all the details in this pdf document I've prepared.
Read More »The Political Impact of Optional Preferential Voting – NSW 2019 Preference Flows

Preference Completion Categories – 2019 NSW Election

New South Wales is the only Australian jurisdiction that uses optional rather than compulsory or full preferential voting for single member lower house elections. It is also the only state that data enters all lower house ballot papers and publishes the data for outside research.

Over the next few days I’ll publish more information on lower house preference flows, but this first post concentrates on preference completion rates.

For this analysis, all ballot papers have been categorised into one of three categories.

  • Single – ballot papers that counted with only a single preference.
  • Full – ballot paper with all squares filled completing a formal sequence of preferences.
  • Partial – formal preferences between 2 and (Max Candidates -1).

Overall 64.3% of ballot papers counted as 1-only votes and had no further preferences. 23.7% of ballot papers counted with all preferences correctly completed, and a further 12.0% had partial preferences. The median number of preferences completed was 1, the average 2.4.

The rate of completion varied substantially by party and also varied from electorate to electorate. This variation in rate is clearly related to published and distributed how-to-vote material. As I don’t have access to the how-to-votes, this post won’t include analysis based on recommendation.

But if you want to see the numbers by electorate by candidate, or by party by electorate, you can find all the details in this pdf document I’ve prepared.

Read More »Preference Completion Categories – 2019 NSW Election

VIC22 – 2-Party Preferred Results and Swings by District

Inside this post I am publishing corrected two-party preferred (2PP) results, state-wide and by district, for the 2022 Victorian election.

The post is based on the Victorian Electoral Commission’s (VEC’s) published two-party preferred totals. At the moment the difference in my table is that I include corrected the two-party preferred totals for Brighton and Werribee.

These two corrected totals have been calculated from the data entered ballot paper files for both seats. The VEC did not publish a completed preference distribution for either seat but the correct 2PP can be calculated from the data files. I recently analysed the preference flows for seven districts where data entry was available, including for Brighton and Werribee.

In February the VEC intends to undertake formal preference distributions in districts where a distribution was not required. I will update the table and this post as the new figures become available.

As well as publishing two-party preferred totals, the post explains the VEC’s counting procedures that are responsible for me having a different state-wide 2PP, and also why there will be further changes when the VEC conducts the additional distributions in February.Read More »VIC22 – 2-Party Preferred Results and Swings by District

VIC22 – Werribee – Analysis of Preferences

Werribee was one of the seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its re-check of election night votes by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system. Werribee had 15 candidates, and as explained in my Melton post, this presented difficulties for the VEC in conducting manual re-checks so data entry was used.

Werribee was of interest in 2022 after the second place finish of Independent Joe Garra in 2018. Werribee had a very safe 13.4% margin versus the Liberal Party, but slightly less safe 9.2% margin versus Garra. Labor MP Tim Pallas was saved from another challenge when Garra contested Point Cook after his home suburb of Werribee South was transferred to Point Cook in the redistribution. But a new Independent emerged in local car dealership owner Paul Hopper. In the end Hopper’s challenge fizzled and he finished fourth with only 5.9%.

With 15 candidates, Werribee saw a very high informal vote at 9.7% on a turnout of 85.6%. A very low 30.1% of votes were cast on polling day, 57.3% were Pre-polls, 8.2% Postal votes and 3.8% Absent votes.

The two major parties attracted 70.7% of the vote between them, Labor 45.4%% and the Liberal Party 25.3%. The other 29.3% was split across 13 candidates, none of whom passed 7%.

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston, Hawthorn, Brighton, Melton and Point Cook, this post will use of the electronic ballot papers to analyse preference flow statistics and also to look at the influence of candidate how-to-votes.

The key findings for Werribee are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in 71.5% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. Note that Liberal preferences were not distributed.
  • For the 12 Point Cook candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, 25.6% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. Labor at 26.9% and the Liberal Party 34.6% were the highest concordance rates, with Independent Hopper third at 27.4%. Fewer voters for the plethora of minor parties and independents followed a how-to-vote.
  • In the two-party preferred count, a relatively low 53.1% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal.
  • The full two-candidate preferred count finished as Labor 23,517 (60.9%) to Liberal 15,086 (39.1%), 0.4% higher for Labor than the VEC’s count derived from polling place results.

More detail with tables inside the post.Read More »VIC22 – Werribee – Analysis of Preferences

VIC22 – Point Cook – Analysis of Preferences

Point Cook was one of the seven districts where the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) conducted its re-check of election night votes by data entering ballot paper preferences into a computer system. Point Cook had 15 candidates, and as explained in my Melton post, this presented difficulties for the VEC in conducting manual re-checks so data entry was used.

Point Cook, previously known as Altona, was a closely watched seat in 2022 despite its very safe 12.3% Labor margin. Sitting MP for Altona and former senior minister Jill Hennessy was retiring, and new Labor candidate Mathew Hilakari had only recently moved into the area. Point Cook is a rapidly growing seat of new housing estates classed as outer suburban and one of the few western Melbourne seats thought to be at risk for Labor.

Dr Joe Garra was one of the 15 candidates. Garra is a local GP who had been campaigning for years on inadequate hospital facilities on Melbourne’s south-west. He had finished second to Labor contesting Werribee in 2018. He chose to contest Point Cook after his home suburb, Werribee South, was transferred from Werribee to Point Cook by the redistribution. He had a disappointing result, finishing third with only 6.9% of the first preference vote. He was passed by the Greens during the distribution of preferences.

With 15 candidates, Werribee saw a very high informal vote at 10.2%. Only 33.0% of votes were cast on polling day, 51.5% were Pre-polls, 10.2% Postal votes and 4.5% Absent votes.

The two major parties attracted only 64.7% of the vote between them, Labor 40.0%% and the Liberal Party 24.7%. But the other 35.3% was split across 13 candidates with no other candidate passing 7%.

As with my previous posts on Northcote, Preston, Hawthorn, Brighton and Melton, this post will use of the electronic ballot papers to analyse preference flow statistics and also to look at the influence of candidate how-to-votes.

The key findings for Point Cook are –

  • The Liberal Party how-to-vote, which switched in 2022 to recommend preference for the Greens ahead of Labor, resulted in 70.2% of Liberal voters following the recommendation and putting the Greens ahead of Labor. Note that Liberal preferences were not distributed.
  • For the 12 Point Cook candidates that registered how-to-votes indicating preferences, 22.9% of ballot papers exactly matched the how-to-vote of the chosen first preference party. Labor at 30.5% and Liberal 27.2% had the highest rate of ballot paper concordance with how-to-vote recommendations. Few voters for the plethora of minor parties and independents followed a how-to-vote.
  • In the two-party preferred count, a relatively low 51.9% of preferences favoured Labor over Liberal.

More detail with tables inside the post.Read More »VIC22 – Point Cook – Analysis of Preferences